It was hard.
The air was extremely humid and knee pain shadowed every step. I didn’t run as fast as I had been training. I had to walk a few times. But I was able to smile and wave (albeit weakly) at my family and friends who came to cheer me on. I finished and it felt so good to sit down, pour some water down my back, and rest my head on my knees.
I knew I wasn’t at my best, but overall I was proud and happy. 13.1 miles is a long way.
A couple days after the race, I received an email link to the pictures of me the race photographer had taken around at various points around the course.
These pictures were a visual confirmation that I was not at my best.
I recoiled when I saw them.
And a familiar voice started rattling in my mind:
"Wow. I look like shit in pretty much all of these. Why didn't I even try to smile when I saw the camera guy? What's with that look on my face? Too bad my shirt was riding up the entire time. I look so pale and just done. And look at this one. I am only at mile 7. I really looked about as garbage-y as I felt. Wow. Ugh."
This self-deprecating rant is one I'm familiar with.
It’s usually one-sided dialogue. I usually just sit there listening to that berating voice, that mood-crushing voice. And I shrink.
But I've learned to make this a two-way conversation, that I actually have the option to come back at that voice with kindness:
"Look at you, how hard you were pushing, how tough that really was, how you didn't quit even though you wanted to. Look at how strong your arms look, that's definitely new. And then please look at this second picture, and don't say a word about your goofy smile. Sure, it's not one of the "official" race pictures, but let's talk about a different lens. How do you think the kids saw you? Not ugly, not skinny, not terrible, not struggling. They saw: strong, amazing, proud. And you know that's so much more important than analyzing these race pictures for every flaw you can find."
I've never been friends with pictures of myself, but I'm starting to find ways to be okay with them.